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Loughs Agency Retains Existing Tag Allocation in Effort to Conserve Atlantic Salmon

21st January 2023
File image of Atlantic salmon migrating upstream in the River Finn
File image of Atlantic salmon migrating upstream in the River Finn Credit: Loughs Agency

The Loughs Agency will retain salmon carcass tag numbers for licence holders for the 2023 season in line with the policy followed in the previous two years.

Based on the information collected in 2022, a continual fall in salmon numbers has been recorded year on year, and consequently the precautionary approach previously adopted needs to be maintained, the agency says.

Its interim policy was introduced for the 2020/2021 season whereby the number of tags issued with a game angling licence was reduced to a maximum of one blue tag (1 March to 31 May) and two black tags (1 June to 31 October).

The agency says that after careful evaluation it was decided to maintain the previous position adopted in both 2021 and 2022 while introducing in-year reviews of the salmon runs based on fish counter data, annual angling returns and run strength.

The principal objective of this measure is to carefully manage salmon in the Foyle system due to concern from within the agency over conservation levels of the species.

As previously reported on Afloat.ie, the Loughs Agency has suspended netting in the Foyle area and restricted angling ion the River Finn as a result of a significant drop in recorded salmon migrations upstream.

“It is the view of some stakeholders that the agency should manage carcass tags on a catchment-by-catchment basis,” it says. “The use of real-time figures can be beneficial in informing decision-making on the number of tags to be distributed per year, and how many tags can be given out for angling in each catchment.”

This viewpoint is to be considered in regulatory changes once actions from the review can be implemented, the agency adds.

In the majority of rivers throughout Northern Ireland and in many locations globally, catch and release is now mandatory for salmon angling due to the pressures on sustainable populations. In these areas, no carcass tags are issued, and anglers are forbidden from retaining any fish.

It is encouraging that most anglers in the Foyle area are aware of these pressures, and now voluntarily practice catch and release, the Loughs Agency says.

The agency also emphasised that it “recognises the value of anglers on the rivers and their contributions towards sustainability”.

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